Salisbury strikes gold with Baers
Siblings lift Sea Gulls to postseason while pushing each other
It’s not too unusual for siblings to play the same sport or go to the same school.
However, Brett and Bethany Baer have taken the storyline to a whole new level at Salisbury.
Brett Baer is a junior long stick midfielder on the Salisbury men’s lacrosse team, and Bethany Baer is a freshman midfielder on the women’s lacrosse squad. But to top it off, both Sea Gulls programs are undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation heading in the NCAA tournament … pretty impressive for both Salisbury and the Baer family.
“It’s almost expected for both programs,” Brett said. “There’s a swagger to it. It’s exciting to be on two teams that are at the same school, but they are both No. 1 in the nation and that’s a pretty big deal for both of us.”
It is not the first time two Baer siblings have played lacrosse at the same school. Their older brother Brad and older sister Brittany were two years apart at McDaniel, just 15 minutes from the family’s home in Westminster, Md.
With four children playing at different age levels, Jay and Karen Baer grew accustomed to carting their kids to practices and games, and rarely missed one.
“We always played in the backyard together, and my dad would always play with us, too,” Bethany said. “He was our biggest fan growing up and all through high school and came to every game.
“My dad pushed us, and went outside to practice with us and was the one who gave us criticism after games. He just wanted the best for us. My mom was always the supporter --she just loved watching us play.”
Now, the Baers make sure at least one parent or family member is in attendance for all of Brett and Bethany’s contests, and despite a two-and-a-half hour drive across the state it does make it a little easier if both SU lacrosse squads are playing at home.
“If one’s not playing, the other one is … that’s the way it has always been,” Brett said.
Brett has collected 29 ground balls and 19 caused turnovers while playing in all of the Sea Gulls’ 19 games this season at long stick midfielder -- a tough and ultra-athletic position. Knowing Salisbury is one of the top Division III programs in the nation, Brett contacted head coach Jim Berkman because of the winning tradition he has established at the school.
“Once I walked into his office and looked around -- it is filled with pictures of winning teams and rings and plaques -- I knew I wanted to play for him,” Brett said.
The men’s program has won nine Division III titles, including last year’s trophy, and played in the last two championship games.
Bethany saw Salisbury’s women’s program having their own success as the Sea Gulls won their first NCAA Championship in 2010, and sought out women’s head coach Jim Nestor to tell him she wanted to be a part of it.
“I’m kind of a homebody and didn’t really want to leave home, so I figured spending two years at the same school as my brother would help me out adjusting to college,” Bethany said. “I really wanted to play lacrosse, so I pursued the coach here and started talking with him, and everything has worked out.”
While she has only started three games, she has played in every contest and racked up 20 goals and nine assists, and has the sixth-leading points total on the squad.
“A lot of the credit goes to coach Nestor and how hard he works,” Bethany said. “He is always watching film and prepares us to play against every opponent. It has been an eye-opening experience to be on a team that cares so much about winning -- that’s what I love about it -- everyone cares about winning the national championship.”
While siblings do not usually give each other lacrosse advice, Bethany says that Brett’s aggressive play gets her excited and ready to play.
“The other day I played right after him, and watching how aggressive he was on ground balls and everything, pumped me up for my game,” Bethany said.
“I just tell her to do the right thing all of the time because you never know who is watching,” Brett said. “Hustle, because coaches see that. It is paying off for her, because she’s doing really well. She’s not starting, but she’s getting a good amount of playing time.”
The Baer family will be starting NCAA tournament action in the same place on Saturday as both teams are hosting games that day. The men will face the winner of Washington (Md.) and Goucher in a second-round matchup, while the women will take on the winner of SUNY-Fredonia and St. John Fisher in the regional semifinals.
Both teams have a long way to go before the possibility of raising a championship trophy, but it certainly could happen for the first time in Division III lacrosse history.
“Both of us winning a national championship would be amazing,” Bethany said. “My parents would be over the moon if that happens.”